If you've been watching the World Series (Go Cards), and if you're like me, you were standing at the kitchen island eating pretzels dipped in sour cream and sipping a Diet Dr Pepper at commercial break and your head popped up and you stopped crunching because on your FOX English broadcast of the classic-not-since-1968-dual-between-Cards-and-Tigers-game came a Spanish voice and music, and you tried to read the screen and all you could make out was Roberto Duran, 1980 welterweight champ, and you cocked your head and wondered if FOX had run the wrong tape, but then you got intrigued at what GM is doing and what is happening in America, the changes in culture, and you were mezmorized by the Latin sounds and the beauty of language and music, and you waited till the next segment and saw the same commerical translated for you in English. Ben Langford, missionary in Jinja, Uganda, one of the relievers who came in the seventh inning to replace us there, came by to visit with Clint Davis and me and finish planning the United 4 Uganda gathering. He and Kym and their son are in OKC on furlough right now and will attend the U4Uganda meeting Nov. 3-4. See details in last post.
Thought I'd tell you some of what we talked about as I showed Ben around Garnett, specifically related to "projecting our faith" in reaching out and being reached by Hispanics in our community. We don't simply reach out to Hispanics. They also are reaching out to us and will make an incredible impact on our world in the next several decades. I believe, somehow, God is bringing Hispanic people to us, and what I mean by "projecting our faith," an phrase I first heard from friend Monte Cox, is that we in small ways are putting a faith foot forward in places we don't feel adequate but we know God seems to want us there:
- Just spoke to Heather Hodges, Wade's wife, who helped start the Garnett Bilingual Pre-school two years ago. With 40 students, many Hispanic and others Black, White, and Asian, the school instructs in both Spanish and English and has teachers who are bi-lingual. Families with children in the school are mostly not currently part of the Garnett church but some show interest and have visited and some have joined our journey.
- We host here in one of our classrooms three times a week an English as Second Language (ESL) class taught by two Union School District teachers. The class is mostly--OK, all--Spanish speaking moms, many with lap children and it's fun to watch them enjoy speaking English phrases and to show them that I know about as little Spanish as their English but we're both trying and meeting in the middle.
- We've put up Spanish translations on most of our signs in the building, including prominent "bienvenito" (welcome) signs on our front doors. Here some might say we are false advertising since we don't have Spanish language worship, but we are doing Spanish readings on occasions such as Christmas eve services and some Spanish songs.
- A Spanish-speaking church has met here for several years. Redemptive Word is a charismatic church that has grown steadily and meets in one of our large rooms. We partner with them in several areas and foster an environment of non-competition and invite appropriately to each other's gatherings. For instance, if a Spanish speaker wants to know where Spanish worship is, we tell them Redemptive Word. On the other hand, we ask that they encourage toward Garnett Church of Christ those transitional Hispanic young people who might want English worship, classes, interaction.
- Twice a month we have a food pantry and many of those who come speak Spanish. Now, I'll keep saying this till you get tired of it, but when we think of "reaching out to Hispanic people" we ought not think "handout" or "we're going to help them" because we view our Hispanic community as an asset and of high value in God's creation and in this neighborhood and in partnership with our church. We sit down with, again, mostly Hispanic women to pray in our prayer center. I often ask for one of the bilinguals to translate. I am slowly learning phrases but not enough to banter and pray yet. Perhaps I'll get a Spanish Bible before the year end. Someone want to tell me a good one to buy?
- We're changing the conversation. As my friend, Ben, said, we must run counter to the kind of political conversation on the surface that vilifies immigrants. Instead, what does God say about justice for the "alien among you"? We're not going to cave to the rhetoric that certain political powers that be promote about immigrants. Instead, we're going to love the diverse humanity that God created, acknowledge that we are aliens in a strange land ourselves, and celebrate the beauty of cultures and invite a transitioning neighborhood into our midst and seek to be hosted in our neighborhood by diverse people who can add much to the body of Christ or be served by the body.